My favorite part of the off-season is the coaching changes. Late-season recruiting and early entries are fun, but schools that change coaches are establishing the direction of their basketball squad for the next few years. And it’s an interesting time in the coaching industry, because it’s an employers market right now.

D1 coaching changes

Year  Changes    Pct.
1997     63      20.6
1998     45      14.5
1999     55      17.3
2000     53      16.7
2001     47      14.6
2002     44      13.5
2003     46      14.1
2004     37      11.3
2005     41      12.4

There has been a steady decrease in vacancies since 1997. It’s not a trend you should expect to continue much longer. Looking at the history of coaching changes, which you can on page 161 of the NCAA Basketball Records Book, there’s a cycle. It’s an employers market today – but within three years it will be a great job market for prospective coaches, or current coaches looking to advance. The last time there was this little turnover in back-to-back years was 1993-94 when only a total of 22.4% of jobs changed hands. In the subsequent off-season of 1995, there were 58 changes (19.2%). A previous lull occurred in 1984 and 1985 with 23.0% turnover. Two years later, 1987, was the biggest single year for job changes – when 66 of 290 coaches either got their pink slip or found greener grass.

So keeping in mind that this was a slow year for coaching changes – both in number and in impact – here are some comments on nine of the 41 selections…

Air Force (Chris Mooney out, Jeff Bzdelik in) – The only job to open that was also open last off-season. A lack of stability is not viewed a positive aspect in any program. But Southern Illinois didn’t have a problem last season responding to consecutive coaching changes, and Kent State has remained strong since losing Stan Heath and Gary Waters to promotions in 2001 and 2002. I’m guessing Air Force follows the Butler/Tulsa model, schools that have fallen off since changes in 2000 and 2001. Hiring someone to run the Princeton scheme with no prior experience raises a lot of questions.

Florida Atlantic (Sidney Green out, Matt Doherty in) – Blackballed by the major conferences, Doherty swallowed his allegedly enormous ego, and accepted a position with the Owls of the Atlantic Sun, who won 25 games over the last three seasons. The over/under on Doherty’s tenure is 1.5 years. Given the expected flurry of activity coming soon, a decent season or two at FAU will get Doherty some interest from a medium or high profile program.

Howard (Frankie Allen out, ?? in) – Allen joins the thrice-fired/resigned club. Does he get an all-expense paid dinner with Pat Kennedy?

Purdue (Gene Keady out, Matt Painter in) – I was at my local bookstore the other day because it’s a suprisingly rich source of technical basketball books written by coaches. I was unable to find Keady’s "How to Parlay Tepid Interest from the University of San Francisco Into a Houseful of Expensive Retirement Gifts." I’m not normally a fan of picking a coach without a serious national search, but Purdue had no choice here. Actually, Purdue was fortunate to have someone that had some head coaching experience at a top 25 program willing to spend a year on the bench before taking their job. Painter may work out, but every time this happens I can’t help but think "Joey Meyer."

Richmond (Jerry Wainwright out, Chris Mooney in) – the city of Richmond is the new cradle of coaches, with the youngest (Jeff Capel at Virginia Commonwealth) and fourth-youngest (Mooney) coaches working in the same town. Is this hiring a sign that the Princeton offense is going mainstream? For the sake of gifted offensive rebounders everywhere, let’s hope not.

Savannah State (Ed Daniels out, Horace Broadnax in) – This is the perfect spot for a once-fired low-major coach. Win six or seven games next season, and Broadnax scores points. With SSU able to legally play up to four non-D1 schools – which they played none of in ‘04-‘05 – there are a few ways to schedule an improvement.

USC (Henry Bibby out, Tim Floyd in) – Still not sure why USC was such a coveted job. Since the Pac-10 expanded in 1979, the Trojans have a 217-269 (.447) conference record. The only schools worse are Oregon and Washington State.

Virginia (Pete Gillen out, Dave Leitao in) – This set in motion a four school chain reaction – Virginia/DePaul/Richmond/Air Force. The most fascinating part of coaching changes is the chain of events that one move can make. It’s the butterfly effect of college hoops. Pete Gillen flaps his wings and before you know it you have Richmond running the Princeton offense, and Air Force possibly bidding adieu to its winning ways. If UVa plays January through March like they played November and December, none of this happens.

VMI (Bart Bellairs out, Duggar Baucom in) – I just like the name Duggar Baucom. But I question his sanity, because he has a good resume and VMI is the dead-end job of dead-end jobs. The Keydets had some glory in the ‘70s – they were one game away from the Final Four in 1976 and made the sweet sixteen in ‘77. But their aggregate conference record since 1979 is 126-289, with three winning seasons. The dream scenario is that Baucom flees VMI in a couple of years for ESPN, giving us the euphonic gold of Duggar and Digger in the studio.